Nisman accusations (though not his death) laid to rest
An Argentine federal appeals court closed down a criminal case against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Tuesday. The court accepted a prosecutor's decision not to pursue the accusation that Kirchner and other government officials had conspired to shield Iranians accused of masterminding the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish center.
The case has gripped Argentina since January, when prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused Kirchner, her Foreign Minister and a national lawmaker of trying to derail his lengthy investigation into the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center, which killed 85 people, reports the New York Times.
Nisman was found dead in his home a few days after making the accusation -- investigators still have not determined whether the cause of death was homicide or suicide. In the ensuing months, the case was a rallying point for the political opposition in the midst of an electoral year in which Kirchner is not up for reelection.
Two lower courts already threw out the case, declaring the accusations without merit on a criminal level. Nisman's accusations centered around a memorandum of understanding, signed between Iran and Argentina, which attempted to end an impasse that has paralyzed the AMIA legal case for years. Iranians accused of master-minding the plot have not presented themselves to the Argentine court and, by Argentine law, cannot be tried in absence. Iran refuses to extradite them. The memorandum would have brought Argentine court officials, including the judge in charge of the case to Iran in order to hear their testimony. It would have also created a Truth Commission, with legal experts proposed by both countries, which would accompany the process, although it could not influence the Argentine judicial case.
Nisman argued that Kirchner and her Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, had attempted to lift Interpol red notice (a request for the arrest and extradition of an individual) placed on the Iranian suspects. He said the cover-up was carried out in order for Argentina to exchange grains for oil with Teheran. However, before Nisman's death, Interpol's former secretary general, Ronald Noble, categorically denied those charges.
On Tuesday a judge said it was a "judicial absurdity" to suppose that a cover-up conspiracy could be carried out with a Memorandum with Iran, an agreement ratified by the national Congress.
Página 12 reviews the case's chronology, noting that Judge Daniel Rafecas, who originally threw out the case in February, found that none of the elements of the alleged cover-up had actually been enacted: the Truth Commission was never created, the red notices were never lifted, grains were never exchanged for oil, and false leads to pin blame on local fascists were never presented.
The AP has a day by day chronology of the case and the investigation of Nisman's death.
La Nación analyzes whether this court decision effectively shuts down the accusations for good -- as Argentina's legal system has a res-judicata clause (claim preclusion), wherein litigation cannot continue on the same case once the appeals options have been exhausted. While this would apparently be the case after Tuesday's decision, some legal experts say the court's decision was not technically a judgement, and that the case could be revisited in the future. A prosecutor who argued the case before a lower court said the case could be reopened by the next government.
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